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IBPA Member Spotlight: Inner Flower Child Books

Thursday, August 2, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Caitlin Walker
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Inner Flower Child Books to Participate in the Los Angeles Public Library's Summer Author Program
Courtenay Fletcher (left) and Susan Bernardo will present the same title that was read aloud by Astronaut Kate Rubin on the International Space Station for Storytime from Space, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, at four branch libraries across Los Angeles!

Inner Flower Child Books has once again been invited to participate in the Los Angeles Public Library's Summer Author Program, a series that gives authors and publishers a chance to connect with their local community through readings, meet-and-greets, and more! They will be presenting The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm at four branch libraries across the city, and The Library Foundation of Los Angeles has generously offered to give free books to every child who attends! The Library Foundation of Los Angeles also funds the entire series as part of their mission to provide support for the LA Public Library through "high-caliber programs that nurture literacy, the imagination, and lifelong learning."

The Healing Power of Books

Poet and writer Susan Bernardo and artist Courtenay Fletcher first met at a Mommy and Me class in 2004, and their friendship began to grow right along with their kids. Eight years later, both women were struggling with loss and grief. "We were having a hard time coping with the sadness," says Bernardo, who, after a difficult divorce, missed her kids desperately when they were at their dad's. "Courtenay and I took a lot of long walks together, trying to find meaning in it all."

Courtenay (left) and Susan (right) pose with Reading Rainbow's LeVar Burton.

Eventually, these discussions led to the creation of a children's book that addresses the pain felt after loss. The book, Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs, reassures kids that love lasts forever, even when the people you love can't be physically present. As the publisher explains, "With Bernardo's background in education, fundraising and public relations, and Fletcher's experience as a graphic designer and advertising creative director, they felt comfortable about taking on the challenge of publishing the book themselves - and they didn't want to be slowed down by the conventional path to publishing."

Soon after, they formed Inner Flower Child Books through the support of a Kickstarter campaign, and just nine months later their debut title was in print. Once the title was out, they began to donate copies to hospitals, shelters—anywhere children needed extra love and kindness. As their following grew, a mommy blogger fell in love with the story and passed it along to an executive at Reading Rainbow. Before they knew it, the two were collaborating with LeVar Burton on their title, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, a book to help children cope with trauma.

"Since it was published in 2014," says Susan, "[The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm] has been on Good Morning America, read aloud to military kids by both Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, and sent on a rocket to the International Space Station to be read aloud by Astronaut Kate Rubins for Storytime from Space!"

The press brings The Adventures of Tiny House to the classroom!

Since then, Inner Flower Child Books has released two additional titles: The Big Adventures of Tiny House, and the YA novel Inspired. And they won't be slowing down any time soon! Right now, Susan and Courtenay are not publishing books by others, and are focused on releasing their own. And they already have several new titles in the making! On August 13th they will launch a new Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming title, The Artist Who Loved Cats: The Inspiring Tale of Theophile Steinlen.

"We're also looking at ways to expand the reach of our current titles," Susan says. "For instance, we are working on a bilingual version of Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs to help immigrant children, and seeking a grant or non-profit partner to underwrite the expenses and get the book where it is needed most. We'd love to create a line of merchandise to go with our books, especially educational items like felt boards and finger puppets. We are also developing standards-based lesson plans that we can offer to teachers."

Four questions for Susan Bernardo:

IBPA: Why did you choose to independently publish?

SB: We had a message to deliver to kids, and we wanted our book Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs out there as quickly as possible. With our combined skill set and a large network of friends and family, we felt confident in our ability to fund and publish that first book. We are big DIYers! Everything started from the attitude of "Learn by Doing."

IBPA: Can you sum up the mission of your press in one sentence?

SB: Creating books to heal and inspire children of all ages.

IBPA: What advice would you give new-to-publishing IBPA members?

SB: There are so many ways to publish these days—find the one that's right for you. Learn as much as you can and realize that there is always more to learn! Attend the conferences—where you can ask questions and meet cool people. Explore IBPA's member resources section and archives of helpful information—you can learn a lot and save money! If finances are an issue, consider doing a crowdfunding campaign to underwrite the expenses of your first book. For us, our Kickstarter campaigns have been a blessing, because we did not go into debt to fund our dream career—and we also created an amazing community of supporters. Most of all, listen to your inner voice and trust your gut... find a way to bring those dreams of yours to life.

IBPA: What has been the highlight of your publishing journey thus far?

SB: Going to NASA Kennedy Space Center/Cape Canaveral to watch our book get launched to the International Space Station and read aloud by an astronaut!

IBPA: Thank you for sharing your news with us!

Find out more about Inner Flower Child Books.

To learn more about Courtenay and Susan, visit Courtenay's illustrator website and Susan's author website.

Do you have member news to share with IBPA? You can send updates on events or accomplishments to While we do not feature Spotlights solely on awards or new titles, we're always happy to give you a shout-out on social media! You can see examples of member news here.

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